Is 2nd Place Really the 1st Loser? We Are All Equally Valuable

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Consider beliefs like, “2nd place is the first loser”, or “winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing” leave us with a world of losers, despite their level of effort, loving intentions, or contributions.

The mysteries of the greater world, or macrocosm, are expressed or revealed in the lesser world, the microcosm. The tree, so to speak, is the greater world, and the seed in its relation to the tree is the lesser world. But the whole of the great tree is potentially latent and hidden in the little seed. When this seed is planted and cultivated, the tree is revealed. Likewise, the greater world, the macrocosm, is latent and miniatured in the lesser world, or microcosm, of man.”

Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 69-70

When I read, “But the whole of the great tree is potentially latent and hidden in the little seed,” I am certain that until every person realizes the whole of the great tree is within, we will not bring light or sustenance to cultivate that great tree and that greater world either. While we are not the entire forest, we need to know we are equally valuable within it, a vital part of the whole. Why should this matter to you? If you do not see yourself as equally valuable, you will fail to see the equal value of others with whom you lead or affiliate. You will be distracted by the most toxic of ideas: “What if I’m not enough?” This thought (which plagues most if not all) results in separation, inequities, objectification, ranking, competition, toxic abuse, trauma, and much more, ultimately leading to deeper shame, stress, darkness, and despair within individuals and the collective.

Most people do not feel equally valuable to others. They worry about where they rank in order of importance. They have been conditioned to put some people on pedestals (most of whom would not put themselves on one) which fortifies that such potential and value is out of reach for them (so why try?). Like the words of Henry David Thoreau, then, Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” You don’t want this to be the composition of your team at work, at home, and in society, do you?!

Whether in politics, religion, business, education, or celebrity, we are taught to compare one person with another, and then judge some as more valuable and some less. We memorialize such differences with less-than-healthy acclaim: contests, awards, titles, opportunity, heavenly reward, and monetary or other compensation. This acclaim is not the same as encouragement or recognition. This acclaim is not inclusive. This acclaim is judgmental, top/down, and win/lose. This acclaim enables genocide, domination, war, destruction.

Sayings like, “2nd place is the first loser”, or “winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing” leave us with a world of losers, despite the level of effort, loving intentions, or contributions. Not believing we are all equally valuable, including ourselves, works against a healthy sense of belonging and significance, and the development of full potential. In fact, when a person strives to remember and present themselves as equally valuable and worthy, they are often thought to be egotistic, vain and lack adequate humility. Most of the greatest manifestations of love in the world (e.g., Jesus, Gandhi, MLK, Jr., and many others.) have said something to the effect, “you have it in you to do the same things (including miracles!!!) I have demonstrated.” All were assassinated.

We don’t have a great track record, for many millennia in tolerating a belief in, and declaration for, equal value for self or others. It is generally thought to be profane, blasphemous, offensive, overstepping, and even ridiculous. Yet, holding ourselves and others as equally valuable is what we must offer ourselves and one another in order to fulfill our greatest aspirations, love our greatest love, and enjoy the fruits of our most beautiful dreams. Many are threatened by this for lots of reasons. Fear of failing. Fear of being hurt. Fear of our power which has been punished, shamed and dominated in an effort to help us become good citizens. (Geesh!)

Believing in the equal value of all brings forward prosperity, peace, mastery, vision, innovation, and deep fulfillment. Do you have the courage to believe you are EQUALLY VALUABLE and to create the conditions and conversations in which everyone else knows themselves to be so too? Only then will the “great tree potentially latent and hidden in the little seed” be actualized. Dare to see your value and help others do the same!

As published in the column The Extraordinary Workplace, in the St. Louis Small Business Monthly, October 2023

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